Guide to Italian Wine Regions

Italy is known for having traditional rustic wines. Those of us who are lucky enough to have travelled there know this well. We think of Italy as Sangiovese, Prosecco, and pasta. However, there is much more to the countries wine and culture than many of us know. Italy is unique because the shape of the country means that many of their wine regions run along the coast.

Italy’s wine regions are divided into three sections; each with a different climate.

Southern Italy and the Islands have a hot climate. These wines typically have a medium acidity with sweet dried fruity flavors.

Central Italy has a warm climate. These wines tend to have a higher acidity with flavors of ripe fruit and clay. Many of these coastal areas are warmer than coastal wine regions elsewhere.

Northern Italy has a cool climate. These wines have higher acidity and have unripe fruit and light herb flavors.

All of these areas have a good mix of both red and white varietals grown, many of which may be unfamiliar as they are indigenous grape varieties that are often grown for local consumption or used for blending. Some of these may seem familiar to you; whether you have drunk the varietal before or know them from drinking French wines. Some places in Italy grow “French” varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Corvina, and Pinot Noir; although many of these are not listed below because they are grown in such minute amounts.

All of these regions adhere to traditional viticulture, winemaking, and wine production practices; similar to those of France and Spain.

Wine Regions by Size

  • Sicily
  • Puglia
  • Veneto
  • Tuscany
  • Emilia-Romagna
  • Piedmont
  • Abruzzo
  • Campania
  • Lombardy
  • Friuli-Venezia Giulia
  • Sardegna
  • Marche
  • Lazio
  • Trentino-Alto Adige
  • Umbria
  • Calabria
  • Molise
  • Basilicata
  • Liguria
  • Valle D’Aosta

Learn more about each region

Sicily

Area: Southern Italy/Islands

Varietals: Cataratto and Nero D’Avola

Known for: Beautiful island with views of Mount Etna, vacation spot, Marsala wines, largest Italian wine region

Puglia

Area: Southern Italy/Islands

Varietals: Primitivo, Negroamaro, Sangiovese, and Uva di Troia

Known for: Red wines, second-largest Italian wine region, large exportation

Veneto

Area: Northern Italy

Varietals: Valpolicella, Pinot Grigio, Soave (Garganega), Prosecco, Rondinella

Known for: Near Venice, Italy, popular Valpolicella and Pinot Grigio wines, known for their Amarone della Valpolicella and Prosecco (similar to Champagne).

Tuscany

Area: Central Italy

Varietals: Sangiovese, Chianti, Super Tuscan, Vermentino, Cabernet Franc, and Vin Santo

Known for: The most popular and renowned Italian wine region, Tuscany is known for their Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and Super Tuscan wines, home to Florence

Emilia-Romagna

Area: Central Italy

Varietals: Lambrusco, Sangiovese, Trebbiano

Known for: Lambrusco

Piedmont

Area: Northern Italy

Varietals: Moscato d’Asti, Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo

Known for: Moscato d’Asti sparkling wine and their rich red Piedmont wines.

Abruzzo

Area: Central Italy

Varietals: Montepulciano and Trebbiano

Known for: Montepulciano wines and their high level of exporting

Campania

Area: Southern Italy/Islands

Varietals: Aglianico, Fiano, and Falanghina

Known for: Aglianico and their traditional indigenous white wines, home to Naples, Italy

Lombardy

Area: Northern Italy

Varietals: Pinot Grigio, Franciacorta, Pinot Noir (Pinot Nero), Valtellina

Known for: Pinot Grigio, one of the largest exporters of Pinot Grigio in Italy, home to Milan, Italy

Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Area: Northern Italy

Varietals: Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Friulano, Merlot

Known for: Pinot Grigio and other white wines, also a popular and affordable exporter

Sardegna (Sardinia)

Area: Southern Italy/Islands

Varietals: Vermentino, Grenache, Carignan

Known for: The other island wine producer, located to the northwest of Sicily. Popular Mediterranean vacation spot.

Marche

Area: Central Italy

Varietals: Verdicchio and Montepulciano

Known for: Montepulciano wines, home to popular traditional architecture

Lazio

Area: Central Italy

Varietals: Malvasia, Sangiovese, and Cesanese

Known for: Less known for their wine and more known for being the home of Rome, Italy

Trentino-Alto Adige

Area: Northern Italy

Varietals: Pinot Grigio, Trento, Pinot Bianco, and Gewurztraminer

Known for: Pinot Grigio

Umbria

Area: Central Italy

Varietals: Sangiovese, Sagrantino, Orvieto, and Vin Santo

Known for: Sangiovese, Vin Santo, and indigenous varietal production. Popular exporter

Calabria

Area: Southern Italy/Islands

Varietals: Greco and Gaglioppo

Known for: The southernmost continental wine region in Italy, mostly known to make indigenous wines for local consumption

Molise

Area: Southern Italy/Islands

Varietals: Montepulciano

Known for: Montepulciano production, mostly for local consumption of lower end value

Basilicata

Area: Southern Italy/Islands

Varietals: Aglianico

Known for: One of the smallest Italian wine region, known for their Aglianico production and ancient hillside towns

Liguria

Area: Inbetween Northern and Central Italy

Varietals: Cinque Terre

Known for: Home to Genoa, known more for their beaches

Valle D’Aosta

Area: Northern Italy

Varietals: Petite Rouge and Petite Arvine

Known for: The smallest Italian wine region, known for small local production

There truly isn’t one place in Italy that isn’t full of beauty, nature, great beaches, and amazing ancient hillside architecture. There isn’t anywhere where there is bad wine either. Many of these varietals listed may not be familiar to you because they are indigenous varietals that are rarely exported. A lot of these wines you will find in local liquor stores, restaurants, and for everyday consumption.

Navigating Italian Wine Labels

Italy labels their wine in a similar fashion to France. These labels indicate the quality of the wine being sold and where it came from. There is also a label, usually on the neck of the bottle, that indicates the authenticity of the wine.

VdT (Vino da Tavola)

This translates to table wine. This is the lowest quality wine that Italian winemakers produce. If the wine does not meet the other regulations and qualifications to become part of one of the other groups, they will belong to this group. These wines are often sold in small convenience stores and used for everyday drinking wines. They are very affordable and many of them are still quite good. A higher quality of wine than you would see in the convenience stores of the United States.

Labels that include “superiore” are often of a bit higher quality while still being in the VdT range.

IGT (Vino a Indicazione Geografica)

This translates to Geographical Indication and is put on the label when its needed to indicate that the wine was produced in a certain region.

DOC (Vino a Denominazione di Origine Controllata)

This translates to Controlled Designation of Origin. Similar to France’s AOC, these wines are produced in well-defined regions and follow the wine growing and production laws of that region. There are more than 300 Italian DOC wines.

DOCG (Vino a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita)

These wines are the highest quality wines in Italy. Translating to Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin, these wines are top quality and must have certain vineyard yields, pass the evaluation, analysis, and tasting inspections.

There are 74 Italian DOCG wines that include the popular Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti, and Chianti Classico. Most of the DOCG wines are Sangiovese-based. The Sangiovese grape is by far the most popular Italian wine grape and is the base for their most famous wines. This red typically has softer tannins than a Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon and are drinkable sooner as well.

There is obviously so much to cover when it comes to Italian wine regions, however, we hope you found this quick guide helpful. Which wine region does your favorite Italian wine belong to? What type of label does it have?

Find out more about pairing Italian wines with traditional Italian dishes.